'Hey, Al.' Xeffy said as she reached the top of the hill.
'Mm.' Instead of her customary Sailor fuku, Allie had chosen a dark maroon velvet dress, in archaic style, with full length sleeves. At the moment, she was wielding a pen and pad of paper, sketching what appeared to be a diagram of a strange attractor.
Xeffy sat down next to her big sister. 'So...'
Allie stuck her tongue out in thought. 'Hm. Need to be careful. The PLOT Holes overlap a lot here...'
'Are you gonna go to the Adrics?'
Allie tapped her pen against the paper. 'Now see, this is why they invented computers, so they could do this for you...'
'Allie, you're dodging the question.'
'Are you going to the Adrics?' Xeffy repeated. 'Imran is, he's one of the presenters... but are you?'
'Why not?' Allie said.
'Because your profile story - your story from the Calliope Files - is up for Best Short Drama, and you're not exactly happy being in the spotlight - that's why you always get someone to be there with you.'
Allie tapped her pen again. 'The pen is mightier than the sword.'
'Allie...' Xeffy sighed. 'This is not the time to start practicing Zen.'
'I'm not. Watch.' She held her pen up - a silver plated ballpoint pen.
'Might as well get some use out of your graduation gift...' Xeffy observed.
Allie half-smiled. 'All graduates of the Collegium get a weapon as their graduation gift - have done ever since there was a Collegium.'
Xeffy buried her head in her hands. 'I hate when people start getting over-literal.'
'That's what I thought. But I also thought "wait a minute, the Senshi have transformation pens too...".'
'Er, you're not actually in-'
'There is a border between comfort and practicality,' Allie said. 'And I'm happily on this side of it. Now... watch.'
She clicked the pen's button.
And held the hilt of a finely balanced rapier in her hand.
Xeffy's mouth opened in an "O".
'I took Basic Swordsmanship.' Allie said. 'I'm nowhere near Nyssa or Number One when it comes to this... but it is my signature weapon. The pen is mightier than the sword... but when the pen is the sword, it's a whole other ball game.'
'I thought the claws were your signature weapon...'
'Careful, Xeph...' Allie said, raising her pen hand. 'Natural weapons, not signature weapons.'
Xeffy sighed. 'You just know Nyssa's gonna ask-'
'And I'm going to say no.' Allie said. 'I am not having her use it for her obsessive little vendetta.'
'That, and the fact we went through Hell to get it.' Xeffy observed. 'Almost literally, at some points. So what's all this got to do with whether or not you're going to the Adrics?'
'Because... I noticed I got nominated in the first round, twice, and that one of those nominations got through into the final round. Now...' Allie clicked on something inside her rapier's hilt, returning it to its pen form. 'I think I will be going, if only to co-present that Adrics Award-'
'And keeping the lid on Emby's and Nyss's egos,' Xeffy observed.
'Can anything keep a lid on that?' Allie wondered. 'I'd rather try asking Calliope to do the moonwalk...'
'So, going as ninja secretary Allie?'
' "Space Vixens! Episode Two" hasn't been released yet, Xeph.' Allie said. 'And when it is... say hi to our alters.'
'Oh Zeus...' Xeffy moaned.
'Hmm...' Allie tapped her pen again. 'I wonder... maybe having you and Dad as the frame story for that take on "The Princess Bride"...'
'You're...' Xeffy looked at her elder sister. 'You're not joking.'
'Actually, it does sound like a good idea. 'Cept Dad doesn't have a thick accent.'
'Me. Centre stage in a Willis/Inayat production.' Xeffy's eyes brightened. 'Waow...'
'Only if it comes off, Xeph. And we haven't even got to pre-planning yet - you know not everything gets off the ground.'
'Yeah, yeah... but still...' Xeffy made a happy little sigh.
'Watch out, teenager alert...' Allie said, grinning.
'Don't tell me you never thought like this.' Xeffy accused.
'Hmm. What was I thinking of back then... oh, that's right, Sailor Moon and tormenting my little sister...'
'Allie...' Xeffy said, edging away. 'Not the tickling. Not the tickling!'
'Wouldn't dream of it.' Allie said. 'Ready to knock them dead at the awards?'
Xeffy looked innocent.
'You are the teen queen, remember.' Allie grinned. 'You know, I just got the strangest image - a horde of besotted teenage fanboys following you around...'
'I thought that was your job,' Xeffy said innocently.
'Actually, it's Nyssa's.' Allie said. 'She's up for Best Doctor Who Character, which means-'
'The WANKERs.' Xeffy completed.
'Exactly.' Allie paused. 'Now, on previous experience, I'm betting on a Killings/Willis sweep... the only one I'd even speculate at would be that Best Drama Short, and it'd be a Hades of a tight contest even then. Still, not a bad year for Mirror Knight Productions... nominated for three awards. I think it was five, last year...'
'Mirror Knight Productions?' Xeffy echoed.
'Mirror Knight Productions?'
'A subsidiary of Tayani Industries, with that company's long-standing reputation for prolific production rates and ubiquity.'
'Mirror Knight Productions?'
'And the award for Best Sixth Doctor Impersonation goes to...' Allie said.
'Besides,' Allie continued, 'with May Productions, Tin Scarecrow Productions, That Certain Third Doctor Studio, Wilcox Drabble Studio, Gray Steward, and... Mistress Helen...'
The sisters shared a mutual shudder.
'...getting themselves out there - in more ways than one, especially in Mistress Helen's case - it was about time we put ourselves in the public eye. And we have virtually cornered the market for EDC fanfic.'
'EDC?' Xeffy asked.
'Eighth Doctor Companion,' Allie translated. 'Not the Doctor himself, though - something about being a free agent...'
'Uh-huh. Nothing to do with the PMEB-EFers' fanfic, then.'
'Really? I hadn't noticed...' Allie said. 'Where was I? Oh, that's right - I will be going. The pen and the sword are both powerful symbols. The pen is in case of autographs-'
'Uh-huh. And I'm supposed to be the one with a big ego.'
'-Other people's, Xeph. I don't think everyone's going to have a pen ready. While the sword is for the express purpose of self-defence.'
'It's an awards ceremony.'
'Ooohh...' Xeffy said.
Allie tapped her pen against the paper again. 'You know, I've been thinking. There's a dark reflection of the 'Round out there - K. M. Wilcox established it in "Some Other Time Round". It's not Earth-2, not a complete moral inverse subverse-'
'Al...' Xeffy said. 'Whatever you do, don't repeat that.'
'-It's an "Inferno"-style counterpart. Where things are... much darker.'
Xeffy recognised that look. Allie was in Inspiration Mode.
'Now... I wonder what would happen if the two pubs met, somehow, during the Awards...'
'Um, Al? Think about this for a moment.'
'What are our counterparts gonna be like?' Xeffy said. 'Think about it. You'll probably be a protean blob or a Dark Queen, Sandra's probably gonna end up as one of those bordello girls, and I get to say hello to dead grey skin and wings. A real siren.'
'Mm.' Allie said non-comittally.
'Allie...' Xeffy said. 'Don't you dare.'
'No, think about this a moment, Xeph. If they are our counterparts, then right about now they'll be speculating on us...'
'And if we make the decision not to go, then they'll... Uh-oh.' Allie trailed off. 'They're coming. Or we're going. We're doomed.'
Xeffy took a deep breath.
#In the silence of the room,
In the darkness of your dreams,
You must only think of me,
There can be nothing this sweet.
When your pride is on the floor
I'll make you beg for more...#
Allie looked down at her sheet of paper. 'I was afraid of this. There're a lot of natural PLOT Holes around here...'
A stiff wind began to blow.
The sisters turned around.
#...Stay with me-e-e-e...#
A luminous whirlpool opened up in the air.
'What are you calling?' Allie said distantly.
Xeffy took a deep breath.
#Um, I figured that if they were our darker counterparts, then it'd follow their relationship was darker, so it wasn't likely - if they were together - that they were having a good time. Um. So it was possible that one of them might be here alone, and I know I'd do that sort of thing-#
Something rocketed through the PLOT Hole.
Which vanished with a POP!
Xeffy and Allie looked up from their prone positions on the ground.
Grey-skinned. Great dusty wings folded around her body, forming a cloak. Slitted eyes. Clawed feet, curving into talons. A mane of dusty hair trailing down her back.
As they picked themselves up, Xeffy couldn't take her eyes off her.
The newcomer chirruped a short musical sting.
Xeffy hesitated, and then replied with a sting of her own.
Not taking her eyes off the newcomer, she quietly said 'I don't think she can talk - she can sing, but no one ever mentioned talking... She can probably understand it, but-'
'She lost the ability to speak.' Allie said quietly. 'It's a myth, it doesn't have to make rational sense. Only its own internal sense.'
Xeffy nodded. 'But music's far faster than words... Um...'
She trilled a phrase.
The newcomer responded in kind.
Xeffy's reply was somewhat plaintive.
The newcomer asked a question. Or a series of questions.
The newcomer hummed, but it seemed to Allie that there was a... a satisfied tone to her voice.
Then she bowed. #Hiya. I'm Ayna.#
'Allie. You know Xeffy.'
Ayna cocked her head. #Better dress sense, I'll give her that...#
'And I thought having two of her around was going to be bad enough...' Allie muttered. 'Three's going to be a nightmare.'
'This from the girl with a ghostly shadow.' Xeffy said.
'Xeffy, she does know you can't get her back, doesn't she?' Allie said. 'The power is calling, remember - and even then, you need a portal to call someone.'
Xeffy nodded. 'She figured she'd stay for a while, have a look around. She figures Koschei can get her back. If she wants.'
'Koschei. Oy... This feels distinctly like a story arc,' Allie murmured. 'Strange visitor from elsewhere arrives on modern-day Earth and decides to stay while being pursued either by human authorities or agents from their home...'
#Ellia? Come for me? Are you joking?#
'...I hope you're right.' Allie said. 'Because I don't want to meet her...'
'Look at it this way, Al...'
#...we've finally got someone we can share those make up experiments with.#
They giggled in unison.
#So, any cute boys around?#
'Are you kidding?'
Allie sighed. 'We're doomed...'
To be continued during the Awards ceremonies...
Summary: Allie and Xeffy discuss the upcoming Adric Awards, and receive a strange visitor...
Story notes: My own contribution to the Adric Awards commentary meta-fic genre.
This Time Round was created by Tyler Dion. Some Other Time Round, the far more sinister pub outside continuity (and Ayna's home subverse) was created by K. M. Wilcox. The idea that Collegium graduates get a weapon was introduced on the SCML by Ana Lyssie Cotton.
The first seven lines Xeffy sings are from Shakespear's Sister's 'Stay'. After that, she's babbling (in song).
(quick note on derivation: Xephanya - Xeff Anya - Xeffy Ayna. Allie - Ellia. The Master - Koschei)
Copyright 2002 Imran Inayat.